The British wine industry has experienced a major boom over the last decade, with small-scale, award-winning vineyards and wineries opening at an unprecedented rate. Surprisingly, this is partly thanks to climate change; as our summers have become longer, grape-growers are able to keep their products at the right conditions to make better wine – and more of it.
Fine wine meets craft beer
But it isnâ€™t just home-grown vineyards that are making a splash in the drinks industry; the marketplace has also shifted with the rise in popularity of craft beer. Small batch breweries are being stocked in major wine retailers such as Oddbins and Majestic, while companies such as Brewdog have expanded from a Scottish microbrewery into a chain of bars, whose products are stocked in supermarkets. The recent takeover of the Camden Town Brewery by AB InBev was met with cries of â€œsell-out!â€ by the none-more-elitist craft beer connoisseurs – Brewdog immediately ceased stocking Camden Town products in their bars.
Even Starbucks are getting in on the act, opening a one-off newly branded branch in Central London. Star Reserve provides an upscale take on the high street favourite, with restaurant style service, expensive gourmet coffees, wine tasting and craft beers from local breweries Five Points and London Alt.
Dirty burgers go vintage
In the heart of Londonâ€™s trendy Dalston, a new restaurant is set to open which gives a more refined take on the current craze for â€œdirty burgersâ€. Rather than the usual assortment of imported American IPAs, Burgers And Wine are pairing burger pop-up Lucky Chipâ€™s high-concept favourites such as the Kevin Bacon and the John Belushi with a range of over 100 carefully selected fine wines from around the world.
A step above your higher-end supermarket bottles, fine wines are subject to rigorous inspection. Guidelines from the oenophiles at The London Wine Cellar indicate just how much analysis goes into fine wine valuation: for example, age and region may count for nothing if the bottle has a thirsty cork (this is referred to as ullage by industry professionals).
The least expensive bottle on Burgers And Wineâ€™s wine list starts at a modest Â£20, though a more exclusive range of wines start from Â£100, and could be as expensive as Â£500. Lucky Chipâ€™s founder Ben Denner has claimed that his love of wine partly inspired the venture, adding â€œnowhere else is doing really good burgers with really good wine at the moment.â€
Junk food and wine catches on
The inception of Burgers And Wine was actually anticipated by an article on the industry website The Drinks Business, suggesting the ten best pairings of fine wine and junk food. â€œItâ€™s a well known secret in the wine trade,â€ the list notes, â€œthat many of us enjoy cracking open a bottle of vintage Champagne to enjoy with our fish â€˜nâ€™ chips.â€
Burgers and Wine has sparked a number of spin-off blog posts, recommending how to pair wine with junk food – from Reeseâ€™s Peanut Butter Cups and sherry to candy floss and Lambrusco.
Sohoâ€™s Bubbledogs restaurant has been pairing hot dogs with vintage champagnes under the radar since 2012, so whether or not the craze will catch on further remains to be seen. Expensive wine may be a pretty decadent accompaniment to your weekly curry, but this is certainly an interesting, postmodern development in how we think about food in 2016.